Tasmania is set to progress by the reigns of Labor’s “Future Health Plan” into an abyss of lost hospitals. If these are such prosperous times, why are we being stripped of adequate health care? Going back half a century, when some of these hospitals were built, Government revenue was down, our taxes and rates were low, yet utilities like hospitals were granted to communities all over Tasmania. The closure and downgrading of numerous hospitals around the State is sticking a thorn in the side of the affected communities. These towns are ports of call to many workers and families that are associated with the thriving industries that keep Tasmania financially alive. With both the State Government and Commonwealth Government now involved in our health crisis, who has our best interests at heart and who has let us down? This mass overhaul of our health care system is no enviable task. The hospitals in question are running at unacceptable levels and much needed funds are as elusive as the doctors we need to run them. A hospital is pointless without adequate staff. Any long-term strategy for our hospitals should make revamping the education system a top priority. Education, being a Federal responsibility, is the best way for the Howard Government to really help Tasmania. Any health plan for the future is worthless unless it provokes our Federal Government to inject our Universities with the funding they deserve. Perhaps some kudos should be given to Lara and the Lennon Government; the closure of one hospital was never going to be a crowd favourite, let alone the downgrade of four. In some respects, the “Future Health Plan” is trying to make the best of a bad situation, waving the banner of “quality, not quantity”. Yet at all costs, our politicians must strive for the people to deliver the best health care system they can. Tasmania must not slip into a health care crisis, with our hospitals disembowelled from the people who need them, our nurses just underpaid ragdolls; their helping hands hanging by a thread, doctors few and far between. The severe shortage of clinically skilled people across the country is putting a strain on our health care system. The Federal Government has let the nation down by cutting university funding. They have failed to secure doctors for the future. The Federal Government should be dedicated to our future doctors and hospital workers by taking a close look at the education system and making some serious changes. Perhaps the most obvious, and cheapest option would be to lower the entrance score, and stop pretending that only the highest IQs would save the most lives. With all due respect to the profession, doctors must be first and foremost people persons and have a passion for what they do, rather than more brains than they knew what to do with at university. At the age of 18, in year 12, there are so many factors that can lower a students HEC score - their maturity, problems at home, finances. Why doesn’t our education system make it easier for mature age students to study medicine? What about establishing another campus for nursing in Hobart rather than making all students drive the treacherous drive to Launceston, a stretch of road that has already killed four students? We simply cannot rely on “importing” international doctors as an eternal solution. Particularly when we are sourcing some doctors from countries who desperately need them at home. The Dr. Haneef episode has been a sting in the tail for the Howard Government, and more recently, the Indian trained doctor who was banned from practising in the US but allowed to practise in QLD. This doctor has since fled the country after severe allegations of negligence. While Australia is indebted to many foreign doctors who have worked here, relying on over-seas trained doctors to make up 40% of our system is not an eternal solution. Our hospitals require a few more notches to be put in the budget belt; our hospitals need more money. Yet, even though they are money hungry burdens that weigh on the State budget they should not instantly be put on a diet and trimmed down to by Lara Giddings. Hospitals are social necessities that people deserve, not expensive luxuries that people are lucky to have. From Lara Giddings to Bob Brown, politicians are angered by the Federal Government superimposing itself as a saviour, meddling with State affairs. To many, this is a political stunt aimed at reeling in the Liberal seat of Braddon. Lara Giddings has stated that “the State Government’s position remains that we would welcome the Commonwealth’s $45 million for the State’s health system within the parameters of our Health Plan.” Perhaps the Federal Government should hand the donation over to the State Government, but perhaps, like many Tasmanians, they find it hard to trust a government that spends $15million on an AFL team that most Tasmanians don’t care about and millions on a pulp mill most people don’t want. We are made to believe we are a prosperous land, a state rich in natural resources that can create jobs and income. But how prosperous can a land be without the health of its people?